Conserving the Nature of America

News Release


May 7, 2002


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

May 8, 2002: Today the City of Philadelphia and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service went out on a wing and formalized a partnership that is strictly for the birds. By signing an Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds, Philadelphia became the third city (behind New Orleans and Chicago) to make a strong commitment to migratory bird conservation.

"Millions of birds, representing 300 species, migrate through this city, some from as far away as South America," said Tom Melius, the Service’s Assistant Director for Migratory Birds and State Programs. "Yet many Philadelphians see a scarlet tanager or an indigo bunting and take this amazing phenomenon for granted. They don’t realize that Philadelphia is at the center of the Atlantic flyway and is as important to birds as I-95 is to traffic."

Under the Urban Conservation Treaty, the Service provides Philadelphia with $75,000 to support on-the-ground projects and educational initiatives that will make the city more bird-friendly. The first Treaty Program project is being implemented at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, where forest understory restoration is being conducted to improve the potential for Kentucky warblers to again use the site as a nesting area.

"Birds are not the only ones that benefit from green spaces and a healthy environment; the citizens of Philadelphia do, too," said Philadelphia Managing Director Estelle Richman. "Mayor Street is committed to improving Philadelphia’s quality of life, making the city a better place to live in and to visit for both people and birds."

The Urban Conservation Treaty is supported by a diverse group of more than a dozen local partners, including the Schuykill Center for Environmental Education, the Philadelphia Zoo, and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, as well as various city and federal agencies. Treaty partners will coordinate migratory bird education programs and outreach activities to inform the public about the benefits and needs of urban and migratory birds.

Urban birds are among the most vulnerable bird groups. According to the most recent breeding bird survey conducted by the Service in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, only 31 percent of urban bird species are estimated to have increasing populations. Their generally declining populations reflect the cumulative effects of habitat loss, improper pesticide application, and predation by domestic cats.

The Urban Conservation Treaty program was started in 1999 when New Orleans became the first Urban Conservation Treaty city. Chicago followed in March, 2000. The Service hopes to use these agreements as models for bird conservation in other cities in future years.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses nearly 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.


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